It's hard for me to believe but it's almost time for actual games at Jeld-Wen again. MLS doesn't really have a long off-season, especially with preseason training. And really, with all the basketball I watch during the winter I haven't had time to think about the Timbers until recently. But after the preseason games in Arizona I'm actually getting excited for the season.
Of course I get excited before every season. I think we all do because it's a new start, and everyone is tied for first, eveyone has a chance, etc. But this time is a little different. I'm excited because the Timbers really could be a pleasant surprise this year.
I know it's just the preseason and they're not playing entire games against anyone else's first team but it's still good to see the team picking up Caleb Porter's system. I also like the moves the club has made over the winter. Last year the team struggled with the midfielders getting the ball to the forwards and they actually look like they might solve this problem. Diego Valeri really impressed me in the games in Arizona with his intelligence, passing, and strength. The free kick goal he had against Colorado was not bad either. In fact it was pretty good. After his goal, also in the Colorado game, I also want to see Jose Valencia. The first two years the Timbers either had forwards who were big but not very mobile (Kenny Cooper, Kris Boyd), or guys who were quick but couldn't finish (Jorge Perlaza). Valencia could be a guy with the best of both of those types. I hope so.
If there's one area that the Timbers still need improvement in it would be the defense. The only consistent thing about the outside back spots in the first two MLS seasons of the Timbers is that there were no sure things at those positions. This season Ryan Miller will get the first shot at right back and Michael Harrington will be the new left back. Mikael Silvestre was on trial at center back but that ended when the Timbers came back from Arizona, though the club says they're still looking at a way to pick him up. However, if the midfield is better at keeping possession the defense may not be tested as much.
There's still a long way to go but when I look back to how I felt before the 2012 season compared to 2013 I feel a lot better about this season. I can't wait for Sunday night, and for March 3rd. Good thing it's that's not far away.